The earsplitting howling, an eerie high-pitched note whirls around in Stephanie’s mind as she sleeps. The awful noise wails just outside her window, so she is bound to hear the sound that could echo a music score in a horror movie. Not that she would know because she isn’t old enough to watch scary movies. But her imagination tells her so. The trees fall into a trance like a magic spell cast upon them. They rock back and forth, their branches bending in unnatural ways, the tips like long, pointed fingernails scratching her bedroom window. The sound grates on her brain like a fork scraping a plate and tires screeching on asphalt. Stephanie tosses and turns. She fights to stay asleep, to ignore the menacing noise. Subconsciously, she remembers Beauty and the Beast on the wall above her headboard, her favorite musical, how she adores Belle. They take her to a happy place so she can fall back into that deep slumber. But only for a few minutes…
The scratching escalates, growing more intense, faster, and wilder on her windowpane. The wailing blares louder than fire sirens. Her eyes scrunched closed, she covers her ears with both hands, hoping to mute the horrific sound while lying still, no longer tossing and turning. Fear has paralyzed her body. She feels trapped, so afraid to move even an inch. But she has to get out of bed! It’s coming for her! It will shatter her window and climb inside! Her legs may as well be blocks of cement, but somehow, with all her six-year-old might, she swings her left leg over the side of her twin bed, then her right leg. She is sitting up now but has to run! No time to waste! No time for shoes! Her bare feet must carry her down the hallway to save her parents! Suddenly, Stephanie hears glass shatter, shards land on her comforter! She flies off her mattress so fast, her legs sprinting out of the room!
For a second, Stephanie closes her eyes while her legs move at marathon speed, the hallway never seemed so long. And just when she reaches her parent’s doorway, arms bind around her tightly in boa fashion, squeezing the air from her lungs.
“Let me go! Let me go!” She screams loud enough to shake the roof. Her arms and legs fling sporadically. Fighting off the huge monster with pointy fingernails.
“Stephanie, it’s Mom, wake up!” Lauren gently shakes her daughter, sitting on the edge of her bed. Belle and the Beast watch from the wall.
“Mom! It’s coming for us. We have to get Dad. We have to leave, now!”
“Oh, sweetheart, I think the wind howling caused a nightmare. It’s storming outside, but the three of us are safe in the house. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
“I was so scared, Mom. I hate the wind!” Stephanie says, hugging her mother, never wanting to let go.
“I don’t like it either,” Lauren hugs her daughter back, loving the feel of her little girl safe in her arms. “But just close your eyes and know that everything is okay.”
And just like that, consoled by her mom, Stephanie lets go and rolls over onto her right side. Exhaustion from the excitement finally kicking in. Her eyelids close slowly. Lauren sits for a few minutes, watching her beautiful daughter fall into a peaceful sleep. Then she quietly walks out of the room, but the earsplitting howling perpetuates. The storm isn’t due to pass for another ten hours.
Lauren Scott (c)